That night in the manger was a simple setting for the birthplace of a King. No thrones or crowns, no trumpets announcing his entrance, and no soft cozy bed for Him to lay in. The feed trough would have been rough wood and the straw used for padding would have been prickly. The sounds of the animals would have been the lullaby He first heard, and his first visitors would be the lowly shepherds (those on the lowest rungs of the culture at the time). What a simple scene for this profound entrance of the Son of God!
Thousands of years later the celebration of his birth more likely features a far grander display. Lights abound instead of the dimly lit stable that awaited his arrival. Glittering glass balls adorn trees trimmed in red, green, gold, silver, and every other color we may like instead of the cedar, fig, date palm and olive trees his family would have seen along the path to the stable. They would have been accustomed to walking long distances as a poor couple and feel fortunate to have a donkey.
The debut of Jesus on the earth would foreshadow what his life and ministry would be like. He chose the simple settings – hillsides, boats, breaking bread with a few close companions. He chose the ordinary people of the day, the common people – uneducated, often poor, those without vast theological knowledge.
Have you ever wondered why?
Could it be because simplicity removes the things that distract from what is most important?
Consider the impact of a single candle lit in a window or a darkened room. It draws our focus and seems to quiet us, hushing the noise within us so we can hear more keenly the smallest whisper. It captures our attention more completely than a million little twinkling lights that fill a landscape, but never cause us to notice the individual lights within the display or give us time to pause and reflect.
For all that is different and that we miss about this Christmas season in the midst of a pandemic perhaps He has opened the door to simplicity once again and it is a special gift from his heart to ours – the gift of simplicity.
“Simplicity is the secret to seeing things clearly. A saint does not think clearly until a long time passes, but a saint ought to see clearly without any difficulty. You cannot think through spiritual confusion to make things clear; to make things clear, you must obey. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will only think yourself into further wandering thoughts and more confusion.”Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest
If this is a simpler Advent season during a time the world around us has grown darker, full of cacophony, and chaos, what would He have us see more clearly about Him and ourselves this year? Could He be preparing us for the Second Advent that is slated to be quite different from the first?
What does He want us to see in the gift of simplicity?
Can we yield our disappointments over what we are missing to discover what gift we have been given?
Can these moments push back the sense of impending doom and shadow that would seek to undo us and rob us of the joy of the gift of simplicity born in a stable so long ago?
Will we invite Him in to whatever state we find ourselves so He can truly be with us as never before?
Is there something He wants for us more than a grand celebration?
“Even the smallest thing that we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is completely sufficient to account for spiritual confusion, and spending all of our time thinking about it will never make it clear. Spiritual confusion can only be conquered through obedience. As soon as we obey, we have discernment.”Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest
We will never know unless we accept the gift and open it to discover all that He has tucked inside for us.
“The setting of priorities is not a once-and-for-all act. It has to be redone frequently. Balances shift. Circumstances change. Moods swing. Is it still God, in fact, with whom I have first of all to do, or is it not? Prayer is the place where the priorities are reestablished.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
Let us delight in the gift of simplicity this Advent season and enter into quiet communion with the One who modeled this gift so we could learn to see more clearly and hear more sharply and defeat the confusion that would rob us of all He is.